The Importance of Safety Equipment in the Workplace

Safety equipment provides additional workplace protection to employees when all other safety measures are applied. Training in the use of safety equipment is essential, to ensure that equipment provides as much protection as possible.

Safety Equipment
Common safety equipment in many workplaces includes gloves, helmets, goggles, safety boots, hearing protectors, respirators and high-visibility clothing. There are also many specialist safety items available for specific workplaces, such as those using UV or infra-red light or radiation.

The Importance of Training for Using Safety Equipment
Training for the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential. Users should know how to use equipment properly, including how to fit and remove it. They should also be aware of why they use the equipment, when they should use it and what its limits are.

Training should discuss whether any equipment will interfere with the job and if so whether there is alternative equipment available. Training should also stress that however small a job is, if personal protective equipment is required, it must be worn. Employers are legally obliged to provide adequate safety equipment training. A failure to do so can mean criminal prosecution as well as the risk of serious injury to an employee not using safety equipment properly. Employers should also check that equipment is in use and if not, investigate why and if necessary instigate disciplinary procedures.

Why Safety Equipment May Be Required
Even when workplaces are made as safe as possible, risks can still remain. These risks include damage to the head or feet from falling objects or to the skin which may come into contact with corrosive chemicals such as acids. The eyes may also be at risk from dust and other particles, or even from liquid splashes. Working in a very hot or cold environment can increase the risk of injury or ill-health and safety equipment such as thermal gloves or aluminized gloves are critical in protecting the hands from temperature extremes.

Choosing Safety Equipment
Before choosing safety equipment, it is important to consider whether it is suitable for the job, whether it offers the right level of protection and what training and maintenance is required. Products should always be marked as being compliant with the relevant legislations, usually denoted with a CE marking. It is often helpful for users to select their own equipment rather than managers, as this ensures that equipment fits properly and is not too heavy. If various pieces of PPE are required, then it is also important that these fit together, as otherwise a helmet may disturb the fit of goggles.

Storing And Maintaining Safety Equipment
Safety equipment needs storing correctly when not in use. It needs keeping clean and in good condition, with nominated individuals having responsibility for regularly checking equipment safety. If equipment parts such as filters need replacing, they should always meet the same safety standards as the originals.

The nature of some industries means that even when every care is taken to protect from harm, there is always a safety risk to employees. As well as providing the right safety equipment to help minimize risks, employees need training to ensure that they always use safety equipment properly in the workplace.

Emily Hall is an occupational health and safety specialist who writes regularly for a number of health and safety websites and blogs. Emily also provides guidance around the use of personal protective equipment in specialist clinical settings.

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